Page 11 - Anjolie Ela Menon - Inner Vision
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She then had the opportunity to travel to New York   wash  technique  that  would  later  influence   Once the artist moved back to India, she got   should be in public spaces. These new monuments
 in the year 1959 and has often stated how   Anjolie’s signature. In the book Women Who Dared,   engaged to Indian Navy Sub-Lieutenant Raja   of our times are the patrons of great art.”
 impactful that journey was for her. During this   Menon is noted as saying, “Toledo’s dream-like   Menon,  a  childhood friend.  She  also  took  up
 time, she not only bore witness to the vast and   watercolours had transparency and were full of   teaching at Lawrence School Lovedale during this   This  first  mural  for  the  Lucknow  Secretariat  was
 diverse  art  collections  of several  renowned   hidden  light.  The  technique  I  have  finally   time which required her to take up residence in the   created in 1963 and was followed by a
 museums and galleries but was able to absorb the   developed,  though in  oils  on  a  hard  surface,   Nilgiri Hills. While her time in the hills allowed her to   Russian-themed large-scale work for the Birla
 vibrant culture of Harlem. It resulted in a series of   certainly draws inspiration from that translucent   create with freedom and release her creativity, she   House in Mumbai. She then went on to execute a
 paintings she created after being invited by Edgar   finish  to  which  I  added  the  patina  culled  from   found  that  teaching  would  stifle  her  personal   mural for the Fort Aguada Taj Hotel in Goa,
 Kaufmann Jr from the Museum of Modern Art to   ancient frescoes.  Though we had  no common   growth as an artist. Post her marriage in 1962,   depicting Vasco de Gama. The triptych features
 reside in Fallingwater, a house (now converted into   language in which to communicate, there was a   Anjolie left the school to move to Mumbai and   the explorer surrounded by shields and sailing
 a museum) built by Frank Lloyd Wright.   commonality in our approach to painting and I   conducted a solo exhibition with Alliance   ships. This led to her being commissioned yet
 think  we  influenced  each  other  greatly,  also   Francaise the following year. She hosted several   again by the Taj Group to create another mural for
 Upon her return to India, the French Government   sharing the restless arrogance of extreme youth,   such exhibitions following this, including one show   their Haveli restaurant in New Delhi in 1978. Using
 awarded Menon with a scholarship to study at the   having  been  much  feted  in  our  respective   of her watercolours made during her overland trip   bits of her fresco training, the artist built a
 Ecole Nationale de Beaux Art in Paris. Living on a   countries at a young age.”  through Europe and Asia. This is her only known   beautiful ode to decoration typical of the Mughal
 sparse stipend and trying to prove herself among   exhibit of works in watercolours to date.   era with the patinated surfaces and colours she is
 other accomplished students, the artist worked   Her incredible use of colour, creating  multiple   known for.
 tirelessly. While life was arduous and her lifestyle   layers of oils over time to achieve a patina-like   She moved to Lucknow when her husband went
 frugal, her paintings reflected a certain optimism,   effect,  has  given  her  the  stature  of  being  a   out to sea for work, and following the birth of her   One of her most prominent works in murals is one
 and her signature melancholia would show up   celebrated colourist. Speaking of her use of colour,   son, she was inspired to create a series of 1,200   that she executed for New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi
 later. She ended up graduating in 1961 with   she once said, “I hardly draw. I think in colour. Its   pottery works in various glazes and designs that   International Airport. Resting in the VVIP lounge,
 ‘Premier Mention’, an accolade extended to a few   depth or intensity, translucence or opacity form   were exhibited in a museum in the city. Her first   the work depicts the Lord Buddha in various states
 students.  the nuances of my whole creative output. It is with   mural followed,  commissioned by the  UP State   of meditation. Another of Menon’s notable
 colour  that one sings, with  colour  that  one   Secretariat. This would be monumental to the   large-scale projects  was the large train station
 Her time here was also massively influential in her   plummets the depths. When I dream I see colour...   oeuvre she built in the years to come as the mural   scene created for the Kolkata Metro at the
 works  as  she was  introduced  to  Byzantine and   the overlaying of harmony, discord, syncopation...”  would not only allow her to use her training as a   Esplanade station. Executed in 10 panels on
 Romanesque art on her travels through parts of   ‘Fresquist’ to pay homage to Lucknow’s Islamic   fibreglass in 1989, the painting showed everyday
 Europe  and West Asia. Witnessing the cave   Menon chose to return to India by road, along with   architectural wonders but also help her discover   scenes  and  people  on  a  railway  platform.  She
 paintings of Italy, the Romanesque churches of   her friend Shama Zaidi, first visiting Greece, then   her love for masonite and employing ink-wash   would go on to create several other noteworthy
 France, and the Byzantium spread over Greece   Beirut, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Iran, among   effects using oils on it. It would go on to become   murals, including one for the Modi House at Amrita
 deeply moved her. Medieval Christian art elements   other Western Asian countries. She would also   something that Anjolie would continue to be   Sher-Gil Marg and another for the Welcom Group
 can be seen in her figurative works to this day as   gain inspiration from this journey, doing a series   indelibly associated with.   in Baroda. Both of these were inspired by different
 the subjects feature elongated limbs and an   that chronicled her 4-month-long journey over   regions, the former dealing with South Indian
 averted stare with hollow eyes in the style of   land in splendid intense watercolours, the only   Menon trained in the art of fresco at Ecole Des   subjects and the latter depicting market scenes
 Modigliani. This, combined with her personal   evidence of her work in this medium. These   Beaux Arts in Paris, learning the painstaking   and activity of Gujarat.
 experiences of living in France and seeing a vast   sketchbooks featured passing landscapes with   process of building three layers of plaster, created
 wealth of western modern art, would play a major   barely-seen  figures  or  small  houses  off  in  the   with river sand and lime, with the last layer being   The  pentaptych  ‘Mutations’  is  another  fine
 role in the art she created during this time.   distance and the people she saw on her travels.   mixed with water-based paints to make them an   example of Menon’s experiments with refreshing
 Her fortuitous meeting with British archaeologists   essential part of the layer. This last layer itself   what a mural is seen as. Using computer-aided
 “My  early  work  was  so  influenced  by  early   in  Syria  also  seems  to  have  influenced  her  to   would take six months to slake, making this   art, she explores five different forms of a woman.
 Christian art, that there were critics who, when I   incorporate elements of the ancient into her   medium a more intentional and laborious one than   Now at the NGMA in New Delhi, this mural would
 came back from Paris, said what is this Western   works. The mid-1960s saw the arrival of hints of   the oil paints Menon was used to. The large   inspire many artists to come to use computers to
 influence  in  your  work?  I  had  a  very  Western   melancholy in her work with Christian iconography   amount of time that the process took would   assist their artworks. ‘Two Faces of Ayesha’, a
 upbringing, I have an American grandmother and   playing an understated role. Although Anjolie   discourage people in India from commissioning   mixed media on board work, is an example of her
 my mother had died early, so our grandmother   Menon says that she, herself, isn’t very religious,   her to create one in the country despite her   pentimenti  works.  A  14-panel  work  in
 brought us up. My aunts were also French. My   there is a large body of her oeuvre that continues   training. However, she was highly sought after for   Vishakhapatnam by the artist would explore
 grandfather was Bengali. We always had   to  be  influenced  by  religious  art,  especially  the   her mural and public works.  ancient Indian art inspired by the murals seen in
 European food on the table, wherever we were in   ecclesiastical. Among the many religious icons,   Lepakshi temples. Commissioned by the Life
 India; my father was also in the army so we moved   including Christ, the Madonna and Child has been   Her interest in allowing audiences visual and   Insurance Corporation of India, the mural is now
 a lot,” Menon once told Open Magazine.  one of her favourite subjects to return to over the   physical access to her works by placing them in   dismantled.
 years  in  different  forms.  She  was  later  also   public spaces comes from the need to
 It was also in Paris that Menon met her friend   influenced  by  Buddhist  imagery  and  Islamic   democratise  art.  She  has been  noted  as  saying,   She  also created  a large  mural for the Mumbai
 Francesco Toledo, a Mexican artist whose works   calligraphy and incorporated them into her   “Once paintings disappear into private collections,   International  Airport  in  collaboration  with
 were executed with the extensive use of an ink   paintings and glass works.   you don’t see them again. I feel the work I do   Australian photographer Robyn Beeche. While the

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